The Shaka sign is something you might encounter when visiting the Hawaiian islands. It’s a hand signal most commonly used among the local residents who live on the islands. The sign is created by holding a loose fist and then extending your thumb and your pinkie finger outward in opposite directions. Then sometimes the wrist is turned back and forth giving the Shaka an oscillating motion.
The Shaka originated in Hawaii back in the 1960’s. There’s many stories about how it began, but the most popular legend is about a man named Hamana Kalili who lost three of his fingers in a sugar mill accident. Since he was no longer able to work in the mill, he was assigned to guard the sugar train to Sunset Beach. Back then, the kids liked to jump trains and get a free ride. Hamana’s job was to make sure the train was free of any jumpers. He gave the all clear by extending and waving his hand which only had the thumb and pinkie finger. When Hamana wasn’t looking, the kids began using the same gesture to signal their friends that it’s all clear to jump the train.
The shaka was more popular among the surfer community. The visiting surfers took it back to their home countries and so it began to spread into different parts of the world. But it also started to be used among people throughout all of the islands in everyday life. This could be in the form of a greeting, a way to say hello when passing by, or to express thanks when someone lets you go ahead of them in traffic.
What does the Shaka mean? Well, there’s no literal translation. It means many different things. It’s a sign of aloha, showing love and appreciation. It can mean “Hello” and “Goodbye.” It can also mean “Thanks,” “Cool,” “What’s up?,” “Howzit?, “Chill Out,” “Take Care,” “Yeah,” “All Right.” It’s a sign of friendship and understanding. Surfers used it often in the water to signal fellow riders, immediately forming a bond and friendship between the two. It can also be a sign of approval when something good is done. For the most part, it’s a sign of positive reinforcement.
More recently, it’s been given the nickname of “Hang Loose.” So that could mean, be cool, chill, laid back. Hang Loose, brah!
So if you want to express any of these phrases or meanings while you’re in Hawaii, be sure and extend your hand out and give the Shaka wave. And if someone gives you the Shaka, be sure and answer back with a Shaka.
Be cool! Chill out! Hang loose! Shaka!!
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